Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature

Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature

Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature

Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature


Writers have celebrated the fruitful dialogue between English & Yiddish for decades. In this engrossing lexicon, the author reveals the full extent of that dialogue, introducinng "Anglish, or Anglicized Yiddish, in which a Yiddish word is integrated into English usage, as in 'shmo' & 'shmoozing'; & Yinglish, or Yiddishized English, in which an English word is integrated into Yiddish usage, as in 'allrighnik,' or the expression 'a Heifitz he isn't.'" The author's insights into & examples of countless Yiddish expressions that have made their way into American English are fascinating & delightful. They vividly remind us of the multiculturalism of the American language itself. The lexicon can be read selectively, like a dictionary, or straight through, as an informative & entertaining romp through a sumptuous linguistic tradition. Everywhere are the words of some of America's most distinctive voices - Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick, Isaac Bahevis Singer, Grace Paley, Philip Roth, Joseph Heller & countless others. This greatly expanded & updated second edition of Anglish/Yiddish is a splendid guide to the ways Yiddish has permeated & transformed the American language


It was Walt Whitman who first described the United States as a "nation of nations." He also gave a remarkably prophetic vision of American English:

The English language befriends the grand American expression. . . . it is brawny enough and limber and full enough. On the stock of a race who through all change of circumstance was never without the idea of political liberty, which is the animus of liberty, it has attracted the terms of daintier and gayer and subtler and more elegant tongues. It is the powerful language of resistance . . . it is the dialect of common sense. It is the speech of the proud and melancholy race and of all who aspire. It is the chosen tongue to express growth faith self-esteem freedom justice equality friendliness amplitude prudence decision and courage. It is the medium that shall well nigh express the inexpressible.

He clearly meant that the Anglo-Saxon element of our early history has luckily attracted to itself a variety of the world's speech, thus giving us a national stature that also encompasses a great portion of humanity. The term "chosen tongue" is a conscious play on the Jewish notion of a "chosen people," which does not mean what most people think. The Jews were chosen, according to the Hebrew Bible, to be messengers to the world; and it has often been assumed that part of their role was to take upon themselves the punishment for the trespasses of their brethren. (This explains the joke that describes Goldberg arriving in Heaven. "Lord," he asks, "is it true that the Jews are the chosen people?," To an affirming nod, he continues: "Then, would you mind choosing someone else next time?")

Rather than suggesting an exclusive relationship to God, Whitman . . .

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